Cafe brings new life to ol’ Rudder Drug building

The building on the southeast corner of the downtown square in Brady has a long-lived history. There is an old saying that history repeats itself. The old building, part of a long stretch of conjoined structures, now homes the local restaurant owned and operated by Barbara Bolton. Cafe on the Square began 10 years ago in an old bank building directly across the square from where it now resides. After six years in the old location now occupied by Appleton Mercantile, Bolton relocated her restaurant to the historic Santa Fe Depot on north Bridge Street just past the Brady Creek Bridge. “This is our tenth year in business,” said Bolton. “We just relocated back here on the square in February, and things are really coming to life in the downtown area. We were open Friday night for our regular weekly dinner specials and some customers and I were amazed at all of the cars and traffic that were in town. With the car show and several other things going on, it was a bit nostalgic seeing the square alive and kicking.” The building which now houses the local restaurant has a long history dating back to the early 1900s. Most Bradyites who grew up in the 40s, 50s and 60s can recall the bustling business that filled the old Rudder Drug Store. “My father came to Brady and opened the store back in 1936 with little more than change to purchase a box of candy,” recalls Brady pharmacist Johnny Rudder. “He took that candy and spread it out to look like a bunch more than it was and that was the beginning.” Over the next few decades, Rudder Drug would be considered a second home for many McCulloch youth. Untold numbers of first dates and coffee talks with townspeople were an everyday occurrence at the store. The store grew steadily over the years and incorporated a soda fountain and sandwich making into is vast array of good and services. The location of the building on the square strategically located between several of the four theaters that were once in operation, was just the ticket to large volumes of foot traffic. “We used to be open until 10 p.m. each night and even later on weekends,” recalls Rudder. “We would stay open until midnight on Saturdays to get the movie crowd in after the last show was over. We even opened on Sunday.” Rudder Drug was a favorite hangout for young and old alike. The comic book section was a place where Brady kids could get lost in their imagination by sitting on the floors reading for hours. “I remember locking up one night and shortly after I got home, the phone rang,” recalled Rudder. “The night watchman patrolling the square told me that there was a young boy locked inside the building and he couldn’t get out. I guess he was over in the corner by the books and I never even noticed him when I locked up and turned out the lights.” Saturdays were days that people came to town. The days were filled with people parking their cars around the square and spending the entire day visiting, shopping and seeing picture shows The early years for Rudder Drug were prosperous and busy. The business hired numerous high schoolers to work behind the soda fountain counters. Even more brought their date or significant others to the business for a refreshing ol’ fashioned malt. In the early 1940s, government contractors in need of living quarters for military men in training at Curtis Field, offered to build several apartments in the second floor area of the building. The deal was done on the premise the apartments would become the building owner’s once they were no longer needed for recruits in training. Five small apartments were built and furnished up on the second floor. For years since then, numerous people, many of whom still live in the area, rented rooms and lived above the drug store. In May 1960 while filling an order for a gallon of alcohol and ether for an area rancher, John Rudder Sr. dropped the bottle and a fire broke out when the mixture reached the hot water heater. The resulting blaze gutted the building. They rebuilt the store and the five apartments upstairs were remodeled into two. In the 1970s, Gibsons moved to town and opened a large store in the building that is now occupied by Bealls. “Gibsons came in and put a hurt on our business,” recalls Rudder. “When things got too slow, we ended up combining several different pharmacies and in 1988 we eventually moved to our current location. “David Mitchell was a pharmacist with Gibsons and when Wal-Mart came to town, they put Gibsons out of business. That is when he opened the store where we now are located and he and I went to work together.” Now, with the reopening of the Cafe on the Square in the location of the old Rudder Drug Store, bits of history are beginning to resurface. The original outdoor sign still in mint condition hangs inside the Cafe. The indoor decor no longer resembles a drug store, but those who frequented the old establishment in its early days can vividly recall the way things used to be. “I hope we can all work together and make the square something like it used to be,” said Bolton. “Brady is growing and good things are happening. Saturdays on the square used to be such a big event, it would be great to see that happen again.” Bolton has plans for creating a place more inviting to people. From chairs and tables on the sidewalk, to monthly music nights, she hopes to do her part in bringing life on the square back to the forefront in weekly activities. “We are starting our summer salads menu and adding new things to the menu to try them out,” she said. “There is a lot of history in this town and I hope to do my part in helping Brady move in the right direction.”

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